A lover of stories, Saint Claude designer Sarah Killen creates jewelry from objects that have already had at least one path—European antiques, southern foods, and blooming botanicals—and encourages customers to take them on their own journey. However, this story is about the Queen of Cool herself.
With a husband who is a musician in the band Galactic, Ben Ellman, Sarah’s had her fair share of once in a lifetime experiences, but watching her husband backstage at Jazz Fest is a regular occurrence. While Sarah, Ben, their daughter Rowan, her mini-me, may reside in the Irish Channel, she named her company, Saint Claude, after the Bywater street of her first studio and has been a jewelry designer in New Orleans for over 10 years. Throughout her collections, Sarah’s jewelry carries the themes of repurpose and renewal. Her silver and brass designs stem from items that have had many lives, and thus her adornments become timeless. Her pieces reflect a “duality of beauty and darkness” and a balance of boldness and delicacy, femininity and strength.
Check out some of our clothes in her Summer 2016 Look Book!
"The Goddess collection was my version of the resurgence of the 90's choker. I couldn't go back to that but found this version to be more sophisticated and yet youthful. I have had all of these florals that I wanted to incorporate, and this seemed like the perfect match."
The continuous floral and botanical motifs in Sarah’s work don’t go unnoticed. In fact, it’s her signature nod to Mother Nature’s designs that we love so much. In her latest collection, Goddess, Sarah focuses on a shorter neckline that accentuates the collar- and breastbones with its simple wire and pendants. If you’re looking for floral designs, steer particularly toward the Goddess and Fireside collections.
While Saint Claude jewelry is designed and made in New Orleans, the Fireside collection actually draws inspiration from an antique store in Baton Rouge, Fireside Antiques. The Roland family opened and has owned the antique store for three generations. Laura, Sarah’s friend, and her mother Susan travel to Europe, namely France; Italy; and England, to hand select pieces from the 18th to 20th centuries that will travel to the United States in 40-foot long crates. These antiques have traveled the world more than some people will in their lifetimes, and it's their rich histories that make visiting Fireside Antiques a treasure hunt. Once Sarah finds ornaments she likes, she then applies the details of antique furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries to her designs.
"The process starts with finding a piece that I can visualize and see jewelry in there. Next, I make a mold and then work in the wax to create it. Usually, this involves trimming and cutting the original down or even taking one flower from this and one flower from that and putting them together. I'm constantly taking older versions of things and revisiting it. Maybe I see something I didn't before and the original is always preserved for that reason."
However, the Roland family influences more than just the Fireside collection. After a trip to the Roland family’s house in St. Francisville, La., Sarah created a series of pieces named The Roland Gumball, including a necklace and a ring, from sweetgum trees in their backyard.
"I am here today only because of friends and family. Everyone knows I collect obscure things and bring things back to me from their travels. One of the future collections was brought back from the Sahara desert and travelled 3 continents to get to me. My friend actually made a map of them so I could see where all they had been . . . That's friendship, my friends."
From her collections:
- Washington Okra
- Wonder Woman Cuff
- Exo Cuff
- Grecian Open Collar
"My favorite part of New Orleans is my block. Having a 3 year-old who has lived in the Irish Channel all her life, the fact her first word was Aaaaa (a very New Orleans “Hey!”) in diapers and yelling to every person who passes our house, the fact that everyone answers her back and they all know her by name—it's what New Orleans is all about. Community. We are all in this crazy thing together. But despite all that is wrong in the world, that kid is spreading love every day. Making someone smile because they are important to her, and she wants to acknowledge them."
Channel Mother Nature—Sarah and her daughter Rowan last year picking beans in the garden.
PILE IT ON
Saint Claude necklaces and bracelets look great layered together. Try necklaces with varied lengths to keep the eye focused on the design and moving from one piece to the other. Even the open collar necklaces look great when worn in multiples.
MAKE A STATEMENT
For a bold look, a single piece of jewelry can have a great amount of impact. Try these showstoppers next time you're venturing out: Wonder Woman Cuff, Rowan Ear Cuff, Spider Grab Necklace, and King Cobra Ring.
"Wear the things that make you feel good. It's contagious. I love to make pieces that people connect to . . . are drawn to. I'm not trying to be trendy. I want it be something that will stick with you. It helps tell a story about you or the place you love or a moment you had. I'm all about the story and everyone has one."
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